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Getting women more active

The stats show women are less active than men and more likely to drop out of sport. Kath Hudson asks industry leaders what the sports sector could do to encourage women to become more active


f we do Parkrun as a family, my husband shoots off into the distance as soon as the whistle sounds, leaving me to coax the children round. While my exercise is limited to blocks of 20- 30 minutes, between work and childcare, he exercises instead of doing childcare. I’m one of the lucky ones: there are

many women living in the UK whose husbands, or cultures, stop them from exercising altogether. I also know he’d swap if I asked – he just doesn’t think of it first. This is very important because, according to the team behind I Will if You Will – the Bury Council- led initiative aimed at women – I’m not alone in this. In fact, this is one of the common barriers to many women

being active: mothers are conditioned to put their children first. If childcare options or family activities aren’t available, they don’t exercise. There was a general consensus among the women I spoke to that there needs to be a cultural shift, whereby husbands and partners are supportive of women exercising. Equally however, the industry can also help make it easier for women. Allowing mothers to bring babies into studio classes or poolside would be helpful, as would running sessions the whole family can join; offering childcare; or putting on an adult class or swimming session that coincides with a kids’ activity.

There’s a refreshing level of energy

around the bid to get women active. Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign looks set to be a gamechanger, partnering with a range of women’s brands from outside the industry. I Will if You Will – the inspiration behind This Girl Can – is a project which encourages women to support each other to become active and helped 7,500 women to become active. Now in phase two, it wants to take this further, working with more clubs. Is your sports club welcoming to

women? Do you provide women-only teams or activity sessions? Are your sessions at convenient times? What else could you be doing?


Former Paralympian, parliamentarian, TV presenter & ukactive chair


e need a cultural shift in how both sexes view women’s exercise. Time is a major barrier

to many women being active: they can feel too caught up juggling work, family and other responsibilities. We need a public messaging campaign about the importance of women finding time for themselves, and men also need to support women in this. Anything sport and health clubs can do to facilitate this would help – for example, providing childcare so that mums with young children can exercise, running gym sessions and classes where they can bring their children, and organising activities that are suitable for all the family. Many girls drop out of physical activity during their teenage

years, but sports clubs and other operators could reach out to them with teenage sessions, classes and outreach programmes. I’d like to see more innovation from the industry. Marketing is crucial. I’m a big fan of This Girl Can, because

it reflects what people really look like when they exercise. I’d like to see more of this sort of imagery, not the size zero model in lycra doing yoga. Finally, I’d like to see clothing companies making more flattering sports clothes in larger sizes.


JENNIE PRICE CEO • Sport England


rom our insight work, we’ve learned that many women feel judged at sports clubs. They feel they don’t

belong because they’re the wrong size or not wearing the right clothes. We want to make sure clubs place this insight at the heart of their offering. The easiest and most powerful thing any club can do to

become more female-friendly is to ask women who aren’t currently using their facilities what they want. Reach out to former members, the local WI, NCT or colleges and find out why women aren’t coming to your club. There’s a sharp drop-off in activity during teenage years, which is partly due to interests changing during puberty, but also because at this age sports clubs start focusing on talent; the average ones get left behind. Health clubs and sports clubs need to think about what they’re offering these girls and give the opportunity for teenagers to dip in and out of a range of activities. Unless they’re especially talented, teenagers don’t want to do a single sport. The activities that are growing are those where the user is in control, such as running and cycling. People also want to be casual, so all clubs need to react to that, offering the opportunity to be spontaneous. issue 2 2015 © Cybertrek 2015

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